Pursuing Work-Life Balance in the Medical Call Center
Take Key Steps to Reduce Burnout and Increase Retentio
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
We hear a lot about work-life balance. This is extra challenging in the healthcare industry, as well as with call center work. The combination of these two areas in the medical call center results in a need to strive to achieve a work-life balance. Doing so will help reduce employee burnout and increase retention of both management and frontline staff.
Consider these areas.
Nurses and Frontline Staff:
Strive to provide a separation between work and nonwork activities for all non-management staff. Employees in the office, taking calls are working. Nonwork time is when they’re not in the office taking calls. Don’t intrude on their non-work time. This means not calling, texting, or emailing. Even if the interaction seems minimal, it sucks the employee back into a workplace mindset and detracts them from the nonwork activity they’re immersed in. Great bosses don’t do this.
Management and Administration:
It’s harder for people in management to not take their work home, be it mentally or physically. Yet when they do, it intrudes on their nonwork reality and threatens to unbalance their life.
Managers, give supervisors and employees clear guidelines about when they should and shouldn’t contact you when you’re not in the office. Though you don’t want to shut yourself off from urgent communication, you also don’t want to open yourself to around-the-clock interruption.
Two key steps to aid in this are empowering on-site supervisors and establishing on-call staff. When implemented properly, these two functions can help shield management from work-related interruptions when they’re not working.
Most call centers have shift supervisors. Train and empower supervisors to make decisions on your behalf when you’re not in the office. That is when you’re not working and are attending to the rest of your life.
You may worry about the possibility of shift supervisors making an error in judgment. It will happen, but I don’t view this as a mistake. Instead, consider it as a learning opportunity to equip them to perform their job with greater effectiveness.
Some call centers have management and administration rotate on-call responsibilities. In this way, the on-call person deals with all emergency and urgent situations that arise in the call center outside of regular business hours. In doing so they shield all other management and administration from enduring work-related interruptions to their life.
Ideally, the on-site supervisors should be so well trained and fully empowered that they’ll never need to reach the on-call person with a question or problem. This is how it should be, but for those exceptions, it’s great to have a designated contact person to assist the shift supervisor.
True work-life balance may be an illusion that we’ll never reach, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Follow these steps to bring you and your staff closer to this important equilibrium. When you do, you’ll increase their job satisfaction, minimize the risk of burnout, and increase their tenure at your medical call center. And you’ll realize these same benefits for yourself.Peter Lyle DeHaan is the publisher and editor of Medical Call Center News and AnswerStat. Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.
Featured Sponsor: AccessNurse, a TeamHealth Company
Formerly known as the TeamHealth Medical Call Center, AccessNurse is the premier provider of comprehensive medical call center solutions, serving more than 15,000 physicians, healthcare organizations, federally qualified health centers, universities, and health plans across the country. AccessNurse provides clients with a wide range of cost-effective healthcare services such as telephone nurse triage, answering service and virtual front desk services, post-discharge programs, and hospital call center partnerships. They are an industry leader in reducing inappropriate or unnecessary utilization of healthcare resources, enhancing risk management, and increasing patient satisfaction. For additional information, visit www.accessnurse24.com or call 844-277-6312.
Using Device Data and Nurse Triage to Improve Value-Based Care
By Ravi K. Raheja, MD
New technologies are transforming how clinicians deliver healthcare. At the same time, digital solutions alone aren’t enough to help patients. Incorporating some human component increases patient compliance and education, further reducing healthcare costs. Medical call centers should adopt software and increase the role of triage nurses to complement traditional care settings.
For example, digital diabetes prevention and treatment platforms connect users with support communities and health coaches who can remotely monitor chronic conditions such as weight, blood sugar, diet, and medicine intake. Setting thresholds and alerts can notify healthcare providers about abnormal, potentially abnormal, or dangerous values. While the devices can collect and transmit data, a medical professional still needs to interpret the data and direct patients on the next steps in context with their symptoms and health status.
Telephone triage nurses play a vital role in interpreting the data and providing appropriate follow up for patients who use these technologies. They act as the first line of screening when an alert or abnormal value is reported. They have the training to talk to patients, assess symptoms, and determine the next best steps based on combining the data with the full patient assessment over the phone.
To assess patients and direct them appropriately, the nurses need triage protocols. Most medical call centers use the gold standard protocols from Schmitt-Thompson to assess symptoms. Call centers should also incorporate robust protocol builders, a technology that enables an organization to modify existing protocols to meet their needs and create new protocols when required.
By using custom developed protocols, triage nurses can assess a patient using the data received from devices with appropriate next steps for medical care. As a result, triage nurses play a significant role in this new digital era driven by value-based care. Combining data from devices and other sources with innovative triage technology, triage nurses can act as a bridge between patients and providers. This creates a viable monitoring solution that provides cost-effective care.
In conjunction with custom protocols, organizations should use platforms to put in custom workflows. As an example, once a nurse has determined an appropriate level of care, they can further direct the patient to specific care locations, referral numbers, or provide handouts via text or email. This allows the triage nurse to serve as an effective first point of contact and get the patients to the appropriate next steps on the first call.
Finally, look for companies that provide an optional mobile app to enable patients to take advantage of increased self-service, access to customized resources, and insight into their own information. Technology is changing the access, monitoring, and delivery of healthcare. Value-based solutions are now possible to optimize your patient care and decrease healthcare expenses.
Ravi K. Raheja, MD is the COO and medical director of the TriageLogic Group. Founded in 2005, TriageLogic is a URAC accredited, physician-led provider of high-quality telehealth services, nurse triage, triage education, and software for telephone medicine. For more information visit www.triagelogic.com and www.continuwell.com
Healthcare Call Center News
TeamHealth Medical Call Center Rebrands as AccessNurse: Started in 1996 to support TeamHealth physicians, TeamHealth Medical Call Center evolved over time, outgrowing its brand identity and core message, which is a natural part of every dynamic, growing business. Now, more than two decades later, they have evolved to become a premier provider of medical call center solutions, offering services to more than 15,000 providers in individual and group practices, hospital systems, universities, community health centers, and other medical organizations across the country. Today they are more dynamic than ever, and their new brand of AccessNurse reflects this reality.
Call 4 Health Wins Quality Awards: Call 4 Health received the 2019 Award of Excellence (for 5 consecutive years) and the Call Center Award of Distinction from ATSI, The Association of Teleservices International, Inc. The Award of Excellence involves an independent firm that mystery shops messaging services and grades the service they observe. The Call Center Award of Distinction is a sister program to the Award of Excellence that focuses on longer, more involved call handling designed to measure the skills of professional call center agents throughout North America.
Email us with your news for the next issue.
A Thought for Today
Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some, and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. -Robert Fulghum